SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration over its decision to repeal regulations governing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of oil and gas wells drilled on federal and Native American tribal lands. The repeal, which went into effect on December 29, 2017, dissolved the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) 2015 Fracking Rule. BLM is the federal agency charged with overseeing oil and gas development on federal and Native American tribal lands and is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Fracking operations use extreme high-pressure injection of water and chemicals to break rock formations underground and release oil and gas. This activity can cause pollution from the evaporation of toxic chemicals that return to the surface and has been tied to an increase in low-level seismic events. Fracking heightens the risk of well cracks that can contaminate underground sources of drinking water and creates millions of gallons of wastewater contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals. Attorney General Becerra is seeking an order compelling BLM to reinstate the Fracking Rule, which is designed to mitigate public health and environmental risks.
“Once again, President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke didn’t let the law or facts get in their way in their zeal to repeal the 2015 Fracking Rule,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Interior Department’s own factual record shows that the risks to our health and environment are real. So, once again, the California Department of Justice will get in the way of another reckless Trump violation of our laws.”
History on BLM's Fracking Rule
In 2010, in response to increasing public concerns, BLM began a thorough and extensive regulatory review of the risks of fracking. After examining a lengthy record and considering over 1 million public comments, the Bureau finalized the Fracking Rule in 2015. The regulations require disclosure of chemicals used, specify performance and design standards, and require monitoring and testing. At the time, BLM stated that these regulations would provide numerous public health and environmental benefits because they are more protective than many existing state and tribal measures. In addition, BLM estimated that compliance with the regulations was expected to cost approximately 0.13 to 0.21 percent of the cost of drilling a well. The Trump Administration’s repeal ignores the agency’s previous analysis of the harmful impacts associated with fracking and the benefits of oversight.
In California, BLM oversees 15.2 million acres of public lands – nearly 15 percent of the State’s land area. It also administers 592,000 acres of Native American tribal land. A large number of oil and gas wells are being fracked by industry on federal and tribal land. The repeal of federal regulations removes a regulatory floor that would protect the environment, mitigate health risks, and ensure a level playing field for oil and gas developers.
A copy of the complaint filed is attached to the electronic version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov/news.